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Listen, this process called poetry is an exercise in imagining memory, and then having that memory snare and cherish imagination.

Breyten Breytenbach


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What I'm Reading

Currently pretty involved with two books, both of which I can't figure out quite where to start writing about... I'm having a lot of immediate reactions to what I'm reading but nothing developing into a good blog post.

Gunfighter Nation: the myth of the frontier in 20th-Century America is a really eloquent historical analysis by Richard Slotkin, whose Regeneration through Violence I was reading previously and not writing much about either. A lot of fascinating, chilling quotations from Theodore Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill and so forth, a sort of self-styled macho elite.

Altazor: o el viaje en paracaídas is a book-length poem about falling into space. Much that I'm not sure what to make of, plus some belly laughs and fun imagery. I got interested in this poem when I saw it mentioned in the movie Dictadura. I'm reading Eliot Weinberger's parallel translation, and finding it very helpful (but am going to massage slightly below). You can read the Spanish online at the Universidad de Chile's Vicente Huidobro page. Check out this speech by God, from the preface*:

Then I heard the voice of the Creator, who is nameless, who is a simple hollow in space, lonely, umbilical.

"I made a great noise and this noise was the ocean and the waves of the ocean.

"This noise will be stuck to the waves of the ocean forever, and the waves of the ocean will be stuck to it forever, like stamps onto postcards.

"Afterwards, I braided a great cord of luminous rays to stitch each day to the next: the days, with their dawns either authentic or synthetic, but undeniable.

"Afterwards, I etched geography on the land, lines onto the hand.

"Then I drank a little cognac -- for purposes of hydrography.

"And I created the mouth and the lips of the mouth, to imprison ambiguous smiles; and the teeth of the mouth to keep watch on the absurdities that enter our mouths.

"I created the tongue of the mouth, the tongue which man tore from her proper role, making her learn to speak... She, she, the gorgeous bather, torn forever from her proper role, aquatic, purely sensual."

Huidobro is a very interesting cat, I'm tempted to call this work surrealistic though I don't rightly know how closely he worked with that school... The wikipædia article indicates that his school was Creationism, but also that he was the sole member of that movement. Picasso drew his portrait and Arp shot a great photo of him. There is a great reading of the first Canto up at Google videos, with subtitles.

* (Which I would put in the same class of greatness as the preface to Also Sprach Zarathustra)

posted evening of Thursday, September 9th, 2010
➳ More posts about Regeneration through violence
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➳ More posts about Poetry

I've never been much into poetry, weird when it's said about my country "país de poetas". The classics being Neruda, Mistral, De Rokha and Huidobro, but then there's Couve, Parra (the antipoet), Zurita..

The Altazor name is used for the main prize given to The Arts in Chile, so obviously it's a very known work, but until today I hadn't read a single line from it. And wow, it's good!
I'm not sure I'd read the entire book, but I think this is the kind of poetry I'd read if I want to.

posted evening of September 9th, 2010 by Jorge López

Hey, that's great -- I'm glad to hear you liked it!

posted morning of September 10th, 2010 by Jeremy

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